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Taco Bell will no longer serve chicken raised on medically important antibiotics in U.S. locations starting in 2017. The announcement was included in a release from Taco Bell’s parent company Yum! Brands, and comes amid widespread consumer demand and concern from the medical community about the overuse of antibiotics on livestock and poultry. Taco Bell’s announcement could put market pressure on the meat industry to stop overusing antibiotics and should push its partner brands KFC and Pizza Hut to have stronger commitments as well.
“We’ll certainly ‘live más’ with Taco Bell’s antibiotics commitment, it’s good for business and even better for public health,” said Dave Rosenfeld, executive director of the public interest group OSPIRG. “Taco Bell just filled a big order for chicken raised without medically important antibiotics for consumers and public health experts. Bravo!”
Yum! Brands also clarified the antibiotics policy for KFC, but as written it is not as protective of public health as Taco Bell’s policy. The KFC policy continues to allow the routine use of antibiotics on chickens that aren’t sick as a prophylactic against disease. Such routine use breeds antibiotic resistant bacteria that threaten public health (See OSPIRG Public Health Program Director Steve Blackledge's take on the announcement).
Consumers are increasingly aware of the health risks posed by raising animals with routine antibiotics, and major fast food chains are catching onto it.
Last year McDonald’s announced that it will no longer serve chicken raised on medically important antibiotics, and Tyson Foods, a major chicken producer and a supplier to McDonald’s followed suit. Months later Subway announced a transition away from all meat raised on antibiotics.
“Taco Bell’s commitment to save antibiotics makes it even clearer—this is not a fad, it’s an industry wide shift to protect public health, and more restaurants like KFC should get on board,” said Rosenfeld.
OSPIRG, working with its national federation U.S. PIRG, has helped build a coalition of over 20,000 doctors, nurses, and other health professionals calling for an end to the overuse of antibiotics on livestock and poultry. Taco Bell’s announcement is one more step in the right direction to help protect life-saving medicines.
“KFC, Taco Bell’s sister brand, should follow this example and serve up a bucket of original recipe chicken raised without routine antibiotics,” said Rosenfeld.
Antibiotic resistant infections kill 23,000 Americans, and sicken 2 million every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most large industrial farms administer antibiotics—up to 70% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on livestock and poultry—on a routine basis to animals that often aren’t sick to promote growth and prevent disease brought on by unsanitary production practices. That overuse breeds antibiotic resistant bacteria that rapidly multiply and spread off of farms via contaminated meat, direct human to animal contact, and through the air, water, and soil.
Taco Bell’s announcement comes after U.S. PIRG and 80 other organizations sent a letter in January to Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum! Brands, urging the company to commit to a strong antibiotics policy.
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